Risotto Milanese

Our first meal in Milan was this delicious, beautiful rice dish. While it is technically a first course or served with Osso Bucco, my husband and I devoured a huge serving of Risotto Milanese and declared ourselves happy. I will confess to eating this dish a, um, few more times over the next week.

And, of course, making it the moment we got home. Risotto is a perfect gluten-free dish — elegant and delicious.

Risotto has a reputation for being challenging and time-consuming. This is only sort of true. Yes, you need to keep on eye on the pan while the rice is absorbing liquid, but this generally happens in about thirty to forty minutes. Constant stirring is important, but you can also find time to do other tasks, including drinking a glass of wine!

Pizza with Chopped Artichoke Hearts, Basil, and Olive Oil

When you’re gluten-free, chances are you can’t take advantage of take-out pizza anymore. Luckily, making pizza at home is fast and easy. Using a gluten-free pizza dough mix makes it even easier. Yes, if you’re so inclined, you can make your own GF mix, but I find having a stash of mix in the cupboard makes my life easier.

Since going gluten-free, I don’t eat a lot of breads, so I don’t keep a lot of GF flours on hand. I rely on a well-stocked pantry for those days when I throw my menu aside and hope there’s something to eat in the house!

Most recipes for pizza are pretty standard: crust topped with sauce, cheese, and meat and veggies. This recipe is a bit different in that in features a this layer of olive oil instead of heavier sauce. This light pizza is perfect in the summer — and if you want to grill it, go ahead. Just make sure your crust is about 1/3-inch thick, and make sure you watch carefully to prevent burning anything!

Basic Pesto Sauce

Basil is easy to grow, and I love the fragrance. It’s also the key ingredients in one of my favorite pasta toppings: pesto. As you can see from the recipe below, you can quickly throw together pesto using a few ingredients. In addition to making a quick vegetarian meal with pesto and pasta, I love to use pesto in other ways.

One favorite is as a topping for grilled salmon. Add a bit lemon juice or zest to your pesto and use a few spoonfuls on each serving of salmon. Another fun way to use pesto is mixed with steamed rice. It’s a nice break from ordinary, plain rice, and takes just moments to prepare. Mix pesto to taste into just-cooked rice and serve. Top with a bit of grated Parmesan for additional flavor.

Pesto is also open to new ingredients. You can use artichokes, kale, spinach, or other greens. Swap out the pine nuts for walnuts. Some red pepper flakes can add a bit heat if that’s what you’re looking for.

Risotto with Peas, Ricotta, and Lemon

Once upon a time, I was scared of weeknight risotto. Everyone said it required too much time, too much stirring, too much attention. The latter, alas, is true. As is the stirring part. But you can whip out an excellent risotto in under 45 minutes.

This recipe reminds me of Spring.  The peas — fresh or frozen — add a lovely flavor. And the lemon adds freshness. Plus, if you can think of a better way to use up leftover ricotta, I am eager to hear your secret recipes!

Final note: I love me some bacon (or, prosciutto), but just omit it for a vegetarian option. Or serve the crumbled salty pork on the side. Also, substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock for a truly vegetarian meal.

Grilled Polenta

What is the saying? Man cannot live on rice and potatoes alone? Hmm, maybe that’s not it, but I do love rice and potatoes. Still, in the interest of reducing monotony, it’s good to introduce new things into my repertoire.

Truthfully, I love polenta. It’s one of those flexible foods that goes with so many things…and it’s so fast and easy to prepare. I like mine with just salt and butter, but have friends who swear a couple of dashes of Tabasco make it heavenly.

While I am sure others have terrific ideas for polenta (now I’m wondering how it would do as a stuffing in a chicken breast…someday), I have two simple go-to preparations: basic (cooked on the stove) and grilled. I’ve heard tell of people making basic polenta in the oven, but it seems like more work than it’s worth to me (correct me if I’m wrong!). If you want to serve this as a side dish, stop at Step 3.

Traditional Lasagna

I’m not a huge tomato sauce person, but lasagna is one of my weaknesses. How could I resist? Gooey cheese, layers of meat and noodles, that sauce pulling the whole thing together. And because I couldn’t find gluten-free lasagna noodles ahead of time, I bought 12 boxes from Amazon. That’s a whole lotta lasagna.

The way I figure it, I have enough noodles to last me several years!*

It takes about five minutes of Internet research to discover that everyone has a favorite lasagna recipe, ranging from quick to laborious. Or, there is no wrong way to make a lasagna. Take what works for you and don’t worry too much about doing it “right” — as long as it’s tasty, you’re good.

This recipe involves making your own Bolognese sauce, so it will take some time (think of a terrific sauce simmering on the stove all afternoon, that’s what we’re doing here). Letting the sauce simmer develops a rich flavor — one I find hard to replicate with store-bought sauces (which, of course, I use when time is working against me).

As you will see in the notes, you can skip steps 1 − 6 if you are pressed for time.

* — Okay, truth: those noodles will be gone in no time since I’m testing different lasagna styles.

Pesto

Pesto is one of those perfect foods I wish I’d discovered earlier in life. It’s great on pasta, of course, but also kicks basic steamed rice up a notch. And, I love to serve it with salmon. Of course, I could probably eat pesto by the spoonful…

The ingredients for pesto are simple: basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, and pine nuts. And you go from there. There is artichoke pesto, herb pesto, red pesto. Humans find ways to mess with this recipe every day — and I love them for it!